SUPERMAN / ROB LOWE GOES ATOMIC
The emergence of a new Supermundane edition is always cause for celebration. So, the fact that we've launched TWO brand new prints by the artist formally known as Rob Lowe definitely qualifies as a special occasion. In fact, when we first saw them we dropped everything we were doing and took up campanology...
'Atoms 2' / giclee print by Supermundane / A1 / limited edition of 6 / £130
'Atoms 3' / giclee print by Supermundane / A1 / limited edition of 6 / £130
"I'm trying to humanise geometry," he recently told Pulp (the Fedrigoni magazine). "Everything is composed by eye, even when I'm working digitally." We love it when Rob gets busy with a squeegee, but with vibrant, engaging images like 'Atoms 2' and 'Atoms 3' we're keen to celebrate his digital adventures too. Both prints are from limited editions of 6 and they're a bargain at £130. If you'd like to find out more about how he made these new editions, you're in luck – we caught up with the man himself.
Before we get stuck into your new 'Atoms' editions, what else have you been working on recently, and what's on the cards for the next few months?
I’ve been working on some printed murals for Great Ormond Street Hospital that are being installed at the end of August. An installation for Erased Tapes (at the record label's fantastic Sound Gallery in Hackney), which is made out of a single sheet of plywood cut into 10 pieces; I’m really pleased with how it's come out. In the next few months I have a few talks lined up, including one at Top Form in Glasgow where I’m in a line up of very big-hitting design companies (including, amongst others, Pentagram partner Harry Pearce and Studio Dumbar's Liza Enebeis). I’m planning on doing more screen printing, which will be fun. I have a mural to paint in a new Soho restaurant and I’m waiting to hear about other jobs which may or may not happen. I don’t tend to know too far ahead what I’ll be up to next…
I’m not a very scientific person – or, maybe surprisingly, mathematic – but I have an interest in how the world is made up and that it is all made up of the same things. I was watching the Powers of Ten film by Charles and Ray Eames when it keeps moving out at factors of ten until we're at the edge of the known universe; then it goes all the way back and into the skin until it’s at an atomic level. It made me feel a bit queasy. My images using circles often remind me of microscopic views and atoms are usually shown as spheres. I also like playing around with multiple plains, where things exist on more than one plain, or sometimes can appear solid and see-through. My brain can’t understand quantum physics but all of these things together made me think about atoms, so that's when I decided to name the series.
Still from 'Powers of Ten' by Charles and Ray Eames
How do you start making images like these? Do you sketch out a fairly complete idea before you get busy with the mouse?
In the case of these prints I made drawings beforehand. I tend to just start with a line, react to that, and see where I end up. I’m always looking and making judgements on what my next move will be. I’m trying to make something that draws the viewer in and reveals itself the more it is viewed. I don’t use formal mathematics (although I’m sure the images are full of it) so I trust my eye to lead me. I then redraw them on the computer and add and take away elements until I’m happy with the composition and balance. Then colour and pattern is introduced to help intensify the depth and movement.
Your 'Atoms' prints are pretty complex images – especially the colours and textural elements. Would you ever try screenprinting images like these?
I think a good screen printer could print these. The main problem is the contrasting colours sitting directly next to each other. The process would bring about a different outcome, which could be interesting. These weren't made with screen printing in mind, but if I'd planned to make them that way, I would have made a few different choices.
Detail of 'Atoms 3' by Supermundane
There's a sense that experimentation wise, the sky's the limit when it comes to your 'Atoms' series. Are you planning to do more and if so, do you have any plans for where the series might go next? Or is it more a case of natural evolution by way of experimentation?
I’m thinking of going very simple next, although they probably wouldn't be part of this series. I've been making very minimal work that I think still encompasses what is happening in these prints. I want to screen print on to glass or acrylic and make work that has a physicality to it that is different from paper.
Where do the prints from your 'Atoms' series sit within your practice as a whole? We get the impression that individual works and editions are never stand alone pieces for you, but part of a much larger and constantly evolving picture.
I think all of my work is linked, whatever it might be, and I don’t know from day to day what might influence me or spark a new idea. Some of my work – such as my writing and the more political work – shows my thinking in a more overt way, but all of my work is dealing with what it is to be human: whether that is existential matters or how we see the world around us.
Detail of 'Atoms 2' by Supermundane
And one final question: any recommendations for our readers? What's hot on the Supermundane cultural barometer right now?
The new Richard Dawson album (Peasant, out now on Weird World/Domino) is amazing and he is even better live. I recently visited the Ditchling Museum of Art + Craft which is really great; well worth a trip. I’m reading Joanne Kyger’s Japan and India Journals 1960–64 (published by Nightboat Books) and a book about lines by Tim Ingold (Lines: a brief history, published by Routledge), which is research for a collaborative project I’m working on soon...
As ever, we'll try and keep you up to date with Rob's future projects. In the meantime, if you'd like to see 'Atoms 2' and 'Atoms 3' in the flesh, drop by our new gallery just a short stroll from Walthamstow Central train and tube. If you can't make it to E17, click the following link and take a look through our technicolour microscope...
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